"Use it or lose it": Chesterfield Vicar Lane businesses urge residents to shop local following Independents' weekend success

Independent businesses in Chesterfield have warned they will only survive if support from residents continues, urging the community to shop local on Independents’ Day weekend.

The campaign which ran over the weekend from Saturday, July 3 till Sunday, July 4 aimed to promote independent retail businesses across the UK.

Independent ’ Day itself took place on Sunday and was dubbed a success by business owners, after it was designed to rally support for local enterprises which account for around 65% of the approximately 290,000 retail outlets nationwide.

Vicar Lane Shopping Centre in Chesterfield town centre, which houses a number of popular independent businesses, is encouraging residents to go out and support the retailers on their doorstep after owners warned the community needs to ‘use them or lose them’.

Dalton Bramley runs Gorilla Garms and is calling for residents to support independent retailers.

Independent business Shop Indie, which specialises in cards and gifts from makers across Britain first opened their doors in October 2019 but now supports over 100 organisations after adding new products to their shelves.

Owners Lisa Swift and John O’nions said they were ‘blown away’ by the support they received from customers throughout the various lockdowns and since they reopened in April.

While the business partners shared it had been great to see new and old faces visit Shop Indie, they advised residents to make sure they continue to support independent retailers or else they could disappear from the high street.

Lisa and John said: “Use it or lose it.

Ms Xue Mei Cao from traditional Chinese well-being centre Acu Herb.

"Chesterfield has a fantastic independent offering, but the only way that we can survive is if customers shop with us.

"Take a different route through your local towns to see what you may have missed - we still have so many customers tell us that they didn't even know we were here, and I suspect the same is true of many other great independent shops in Chesterfield.”

Clarissa’s Interiors only opened in Vicar Lane in February last year – just three weeks before the nation was plunged into its first national lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Clare Horan, Jayne Norman and John Norman who run the independent business explained how the crisis posed a unique challenge for their home accessories and interiors shop, which was trying to attract initial custom when they were ordered to close for months.

Sam Cox and Diego Perez from clothing shop Ministry.

“Wow what a challenge it’s been, but challenges help to shape and grow you as a business, as we had only just opened it was heartbreaking but we knew we just had to keep going and adapt in anyway we could", the trio added.

The business owners reminded customers they can help their favourite local retailers without spending money, through visiting businesses in person, spreading the word among friends and family and supporting them with likes and comments on social media.

Clare, Jayne and John commented: “The support we have from our customers near and far along with the following on social media has really given us a boost and reassurance that people are enjoying shopping again.

"Every little helps and your support means business can continue to grow and bring new and exciting products or experience to this wonderful town that will benefit everyone!”

Mario Lanza handing out a hot drink at independent cafe Qoozies.

Beverley Smith, who runs Nana B Baby & Childrenswear Boutique, first started out trading on a market stall in Alfreton in April 2019 but as the business grew and she needed bigger premises, she moved to Vicar Lane in December 2020.

The business specialises in affordable baby and children’s clothes and accessories but Beverley was concerned her company “wouldn’t make it” through the first lockdown last year.

She said: “But my website took over amazingly, I was packing at all hours working from home.

“Ordering from my suppliers, getting deliveries to home instead of shop, all ran quite smoothly.”

The owner was able to purchase new styles and expand her stock following a rise in internet sales which managed to sustain the boutique while the shop was not allowed to physically open.

Beverley said that there had been fewer in-person shoppers but urged people to visit independent businesses as restrictions continue to ease.

Anne-Marie Scott opened Precious Memories in Vicar Lane last June.

“Things have been a little slow in store whilst customers are slowly gaining their confidence to come back out into town”, she added.

“They are realising we have some great independent stores here in Chesterfield, with so much to offer different from your mainstream stores.”

Business owner Anne-Marie Scott is behind the bridal and prom dress shop Precious Memories by Anne-Marie which opened on June 15, 2020 – following the first wave of the coronavirus crisis.

She gave birth to her baby girl on May 14 last year and since reopening in April this year, says she has since been ‘inundated’ with bookings and girls buying dresses for prom causing her to extend her opening hours and hire an intern to cope with the work load.

While Anne-Marie admitted she has had ‘lots of support from locals’ she called for people to vote with their wallets and support the smaller businesses that keep ‘the buzz’ of Chesterfield alive.

She said: "When you shop local, you are supporting to keep someone’s dream - financially and physically.

"I could not stay open or succeed if people decided to shop online or in the next city.”

Vintage shop Gorilla Garms is known in the town for selling pre-loved clothing from as early as the 70s along with stocking iconic brands such as Levis, Ralph Lauren and Tommy Hilfiger.

Business owner Dalton Bramley explained the ways in which Chesterfield’s independent retailers give back to the community they work in.

He commented: "When you purchase from an independent store, you are supporting an entrepreneur who decided to take a risk.

"Town centre's all over the UK are falling apart, shop closures left right and centre.

"Independents are taking over the high street and offering something different so it's important to give them a shot and see what they're about.

"We don't just take we actually get involved and try to create a sense of community in the town centre.

"We run multiple events, give back to local charities, support local bands, sponsor local football teams, we make an effort to help support other independents in their journeys.”

Dalton encouraged any independent, or charity with a good cause, to come down to Gorilla Garms to discuss ways in which the business can help support them.

Healthy cafe Qoozies which specialises in fresh, pressed juices along with unique spinach burgers has now noticed a drop in customers, following a busy reopening back in April.

Mario Lanza who runs the eatery explained some of the positives of visiting locally-run cafes and restaurants.

He added: “When supporting local business its true that you are supporting local people.

"Everyone we employ is local to the area and all the charities we try and help out with are all local.

“With an independent business you get more care and quality with what you are purchasing.

"And if there is ever an issue there is a local owner bending over backwards to resolve it for you.”

Vintage Tea Rooms, which offers traditional afternoon tea, swapped Beetwell Street for Steeplegate, in the Vicar Lane Shopping Centre earlier this year.

Owner Sharon Hilton said the move has helped them remain busy, with increased footfall and customers visiting as hospitality begins to return to a sense of normality after almost 18 months of restrictions.

She explained the consequences for Chesterfield if locals no longer frequent independent retailers and encouraged shoppers to make themselves known to their favourite businesses.

Sharon commented: “If people don’t shop locks then the high street will die and there will be few places left to meet friends and family.

"The world will become a faceless society.

“Independent businesses have a real passion for what they do.

"I think you can feel the difference when you walk into an establishment that is independent.

"There’s a warmth you don’t tend to get from big corporations.”

Independent clothing store Ministry has been located inside Vicar Lane for five years and assistant manager Sam Cox credited the regular custom the business has built up over the years as the reason they were so busy once they reopened.

He has noticed an increase in shoppers as the last set of restrictions eased, with more people wanting to shop their branded clothing.

Sam commented: “I think it’s vital that people try their best to shop local, we love the fact that a town like Chesterfield is still standing tall and able to move forward with the times, a perfect destination not just for shopping but for a complete day out.”

May, who owns AcuHerb, a traditional Chinese medicine business offering acupuncture, herbal products, Tui Na manipulation therapy, massage and reflexology, said custom is ‘gradually’ starting to pick up again following the pandemic.

She commented: “It has been difficult and uncertain with the situation at times.

"However I have remained hopeful and confident that the business will bounce back with help and support from government, landlord, and site management team, also exploring offering new business services via online/telephone.”

The business owner said it was important for residents to continue to shop local to foster reliable and respected long-term business relationships between the community and the town’s entrepreneurs.

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Sharon Hilton with staff at Vintage Tea Rooms.
Beverley Smith owns Nana B Baby & Childrenswear on Vicar Lane.
Lisa Swift from Shop Indie which specialises in cards and gifts.
Owners of Clarissa’s Interiors John Norman, Jayne Norman and Clare Horan.